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China to intensify land management in disaster-hit areas
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The Disaster Relief and Emergency Command Center under the State Council, China's Cabinet, ordered related local governments on Monday to do a good job in land management for reconstruction and in geological services for areas affected by the recent extreme winter weather.

For land used currently for disaster relief and restoration of housing, transport and telecom facilities, approval procedures may be exempted when the interim users return related land to the original users upon completion of relief and restoration efforts.

For land used permanently for restoration purposes, builders should go through approval procedures for land use within six months after damaged facilities are reconstructed.

The emergency command center also ordered geological services should be enhanced for housing restoration in both urban and rural areas prone to geological disasters.

Earlier reports said the Ministry of Finance had allocated nine billion yuan (1.25 billion U.S. dollars) over the past month for relief in areas affected by the severe winter weather.

Vice Minister of Civil Affairs Li Liguo said late last week the government would likely spend more on the relief, without revealing the scale of the further financial support.

His ministry would work with commerce, agriculture and health ministries to ensure residents in disaster-stricken areas have sufficient food, clothing and shelter and adequate medical services. Primary and middle school education should be guaranteed.

Li said his ministry had arranged a raise in subsistence allowances for low-income earners in urban areas. It would formulate reconstruction schemes for the disaster-hit areas in March and complete restoration work on collapsed housing before the end of June.

Extreme weather has left 107 people dead and eight missing. Losses were set at about 111.1 billion yuan. In all, 21 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities were affected. To date, about 1.5 million people have been relocated, and 1.93 million were left stranded before finding transport.

The freak weather affected almost 24.4 million hectares of farmland and 18.6 million hectares of forests, leading to the collapse of about 354,000 houses.

(Xinhua News Agency February 19, 2008)

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